Preloved Books – The Gift of Literacy

Sarah’s blog 20/5/22

If children don’t have access to books…how can they learn to read? It’s a miracle that the orphans and other vulnerable children supported by The Foundation can read at all. They are all amazing and are desperate to learn.

In developed countries, books are available for babies at just a few months old. Care givers are encouraged to sit babies on their knees and look at books with them. Children learn from a very early age that a book means a story. Preschool children learn book contains bright pictures. They learn that books have pages that are turned one after the other. They then pretend to follow the words with their fingers, so even then they know that the words tell a story and give information.

Then there is all the environmental print that we have. Most children before they can read will be able to recognise the golden arches of a burger chain or the label from their favourite yogurt or snack or the sign at the local supermarket.

What if all of this was missing from children’s lives? So by the time they arrived at school they had not had all these experiences and practice. The children in Malawi don’t have the luxury either of scribbling and mark making on paper with different pens and pencils. So how are they expected to learn to hold a pencil and write properly too. They have been at such a disadvantage.

Whilst we can’t provide for everyone and give each child an endless stock of paper and pens….we are making a difference….we are changing lives. You are helping us in a variety of ways and we couldn’t do what we do without you.

  1. Seventeen boxes of children’s books have already been gifted to Chambo Primary School for the children to have access to a whole new world through reading stories. There are a variety of books going from preschool with lots of bright pictures and not many words to Harry Potter, encyclopedias, dictionaries and maps. Every person who has donated a book to us has given a child the gift of literacy.
  2. There are more books on their way for another school and we will keep going until all children in that area have been given the gift of literacy. As soon as Levison had delivered the 17 boxes of books to Chambo primary school, and I had put a post on social media about it, his phone started ringing from teachers at other schools asking for books too. Everyone is desperate to help the children have a better education.
  3. You have helped us supply books to Emma’s Rainbow Library at The Foundation. Book shelves were made along the length of a wall, using a donation we had been given. Now they have a good selection of books for all ages, including study books. More are on the way.
  4. The nursery, for 75 of the most vulnerable 4 – 6 year olds, has a basket of story books for younger children and there are more on the way. We are now making up care packages for children starting nursery, so we know that each child has received; a gym bag, 2 red t-shirts (nursery uniform), 2 pairs of pants, a blanket, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste and a story book with lots of bright pictures. Eventually, almost every home will have one or two books. Hopefully, the adults can look at the books with the nursery children.
  5. Eventually, we want to be able to fund a member of staff to take adult literacy classes.
  6. Today, my husband, Stuart, collected 5 bags for life and one big box from a local nursery. Arnprior Nursery had received a grant for new books and they no longer needed all these ones. What a brilliant way of recycling these preloved books. Instead of them being thrown out or sold for a few pence, the gift of literacy is being given to vulnerable children in rural Northern Malawi. Thank you to the staff at Arnprior Nursery for this amazing donation that will help so many children.
  7. We are hoping to see literacy levels increase as time goes on. Already one little girl, Melise, who is 5 has been allowed to go to school a year early as she has been described as being very bright. Her brother, Mwiza, is disabled and has been given lots of picture books and toys to help stimulate him. Is she going to school a year early because she has been able to look at her brother’s books? I’m really keen to see how literacy levels start to rise.
  8. Together we are Changing Lives Malawi and we need you all to keep helping us. This is a relatively cheap way to change the children’s lives. The books have been donated. It’s £15 to send each box on the container. If anyone would like to sponsor this literacy project or pay for a box then please get in touch Thanks for reading and supporting, Sarah x

Just some of the books generously donated by Arnprior Nursery to our School Literacy Programme

Melise who is attending school a year early. Her brother, Mwiza, has disabilites and cannot attend school. He has been sent lots of books and toys. Melise has been able to look at her brother’s books so has this given her an advantage over her peers?

One of the boxes of books had been opened for the children. As you can see there are no desks or chairs and, until this donation, hardly any books.
Boxes of books at Chambo Primary School – The gift of reading – The School Literacy Project

A magazine article & a lovely donation of handmade soap

Sarah’s blog 20/05/22

Strathblane Parish Church, near where I live, is very supportive of our charity and the work Levison is doing in Malawi. It’s where my mum, Christine, is an elder and where we had the fundraiser/exhibition for her paintings and cards in October, raising money for an extension to the chicken house.

Strathblane Parish Church also donated money to buy Levison’s motorbike a couple of years ago which made a huge difference to the amount of people he can see/things he can do each day. We were all very thankful to them for this generous donation. The guild had kindly donated money to provide food for the children’s Christmas Party in December. Various members of the congregation have supported our charity in different ways.

I am thankful to be invited to contribute articles to their church magazine. Here is my latest article as a photo and I’ve attached a link to the whole magazine, with my article on page 10. . Also, my mum, as well as being a talented painter, writes poetry. One of her poems is on page 11 of the magazine if anyone was interested in reading it. My mum is also a trustee of Changing Lives Malawi and gives generously of her time and talents. On the back page is a photo of my parents at a recent event at Strathblane Kirkrooms.

Also, I wanted to share with you a photo of a donation of soap I received at the weekend. A friend used to make soap and sell it at fetes and markets and had some left over. She donated it all to us to send to the children in Malawi. It smells absolutely lovely and I am sure the children who receive a gift of a bar of soap will be delighted. If anyone else wants to contribute a few bars of ordinary soap each time they are shopping then this would be very much appreciated. Providing soap for up to 800 children and young people is not an easy task.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your continued support, Sarah x

beautiful handmade soap donated by a friend of mine

my article in Cornerstone magazine

31 Days in May – Sarah’s Challenge – Day 17, 18 and 19

I never realised how much I love roasted tomatoes. I think because they are so sweet, I am really enjoying the flavour of them. I’m noticing how things taste more now that I’m having no processed foods or treats. Also, as I’m eating less food and aware I’m only allowed certain foods, I am eating slower and appreciating that I have food to eat. I am practising gratitude, finding things to be grateful and thankful for in my life. I have so much more than those living in dire poverty in rural Northern Malawi.

Tuesday was quite an easy day, I didn’t find it too much of a struggle. In the morning Stuart and I were packing boxes to go to Malawi. There’s lots more to do but it certainly feels good to have made a start on boxing up the donations to start filling The Bananabox Trust warehouse at Dundee to await the next container.

I cycled 15km on my exercise bike. I seem to struggle a bit when i’m at 7km thinking whether I should stop at 10km or keep going….if I keep reading my book that’s on my tablet beside me and not look at the counter then I manage to get over 10km and keep going until 15km.

Wednesday – I’m tired although I’ve got through quite a lot of work this morning and have a meeting this afternoon, I’ll aim for 10km today on the bike and make sure I drink enough water. I am feeling like my mood is a bit low today…probably lack of sugar! At least I am over halfway in my challenge! I’ll pretend that I’m cycling downhill from here to the finish line lol. Thank you to those who have sent me messages of support. Also thank you if you’ve already donated to help build a school. I can’t do this challenge without your help so please, please donate if you can. All children deserve an education. It’s their only way out of poverty

Thursday – I asked Stuart to buy a bag of nuts for me and that was a mistake lol. I ate them between last night and this morning and they were soooo good! Salted cashew nuts and they were so tasty. I’m wondering if I needed the salt or if that’s just what I’m used to having but I must avoid those in future as I obviously cannot stop at a recommended ‘small handful’ whoops!! 10km done on my bike today! Altogether I’ve cycled over 200km now…that’s quite a lot when you add it up! So if you think I’m doing well (apart from the bag of nuts) please can you donate to my fundraiser to build a school? Please? All children deserve the gift of education. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Photos from Ibuluma

Sarah’s blog 17/05/22

Now the worst of the rains are over, bricks are being made again for the eco stoves. These stoves are being gifted to the community, starting with the most vulnerable people. Eco stoves use less wood for cooking and retain more heat. They are also far safer to cook on than an open fire especially when young children are around. Chancy and Manase are working hard making bricks in the photo and video.

Also there are more photos from the clubs at the weekend and the Feeding Programme. Levison and I have been talking about the possibility of them making products that we can sell here on their behalf, baskets being one of those ideas. It would be a good source of income and secure jobs for a few people if this were able to happen. I’ll bring more photos of baskets as they get more skilled at making them. Enjoy the photos and thanks for supporting the children, Sarah x

31 Days in May – Sarah’s Challenge – Day 15 and 16

Sarah’s blog 16/5/22

Yesterday, I still had a headache, although not as bad as on Saturday night. I decided not to do 10km on my bike yesterday and, although I feel a bit guilty about that, it was the right thing to do. I slept much better last night and am ready to carry on with this challenge until the end of May. I didn’t expect my body to struggle as much with just rice and vegetables…I thought the toughest bit would be being bored with what I was eating! If it wasn’t hard then it wouldn’t be a challenge!

This is an honest blog of my journey for the 31 Days in May to raise money to build a desperately needed school for the children in Ibuluma, northern Malawi. Cycling on my exercise bike for 10km represents how far the younger children are walking to school and back each day. Some days, I have been challenging myself further to cycle 15km.

Eating just rice and vegetables for the month of May represents what the children have at The Feeding Programme. I have swapped maize flour for rice. I am very aware that The Feeding Programme only runs once a week and that is the children’s biggest meal of the week. I am grateful to eat every day. I am grateful I have choices of what to eat every day. I am grateful to have food in my cupboards and fridge/freezer. I am very aware of how little the hundreds of malnourished children have. We are working hard to improve their lives through various projects all with the end goal being self-sufficiency.

I need your help and your support to keep me going with this challenge. The children need your support. Please donate to give the gift of education as this is the way out of poverty. Education should be available for everyone

15km done today! Rice and vegetables to eat mid morning and then I made another pot of soup for lunch and dinner! I can do this!! Thanks for reading, Sarah x

rice and vegetables mid morning and then soup for lunch and dinner

31 Days in May – Sarah’s Challenge – Day 14

Sarah’s blog 15/5/22

Good morning! Things went a bit downhill yesterday. I’ve been so tired and had a headache all day. I still went on my exercise bike yesterday but only managed 10km. I’d stuck to rice and vegetables but by dinner time Stuart and I both decided I needed something else to eat, so he made me an omelette. It was lovely to have something different to eat but I didn’t really enjoy it as I should have as I was feeling so guilty that I’d had to supplement the rice and vegetables. Despite having an early night too, it took me ages to get to sleep because of a headache.

That isn’t really what I wanted to report at day 14, two weeks into my challenge, but it’s about honesty and just eating rice and vegetables for a month is obviously harder than it sounds because of lack of nutrients in my diet. So although I am determined to stick to completing this challenge, I will be making sure I have more beans and I’m also going to add a multivitamin each day. There is no point in making myself really poorly through this challenge, I need to be sensible as lots of people are depending on me. Yesterday was a warning that my body is needing more than I’m giving it through rice and vegetables. I’ve still got a headache today but hopefully it will go once I’ve eaten and had some vitamins.

How do the malnourished children in Ibuluma cope? No wonder they can’t concentrate as well at school if their basic needs aren’t being met like they should be. Thankfully, the Feeding Programme is making a difference to them although it’s only once a week. By planting fruit tree saplings we are investing in their future food and a source of income. We need to keep investing in this community to help them to future self-sufficiency. Planting even more fruit tree saplings is a great, and relatively cheap way to achieve this. At £10 for 4 saplings it’s an ongoing project that you can donate to at any time.

I’m needing your support please as I continue with my challenge to raise funds for building a school. There are not enough school places. Education is the way out of poverty for the orphans and other vulnerable children. All children deserve the gift of education. Please donate thanks for reading, Sarah x

Elias & Adam – mat making (update on Elias Sichoni)

Sarah’s blog 13/5/22

As you saw the other day, children were busy with different activities at The Foundation. One group of children was learning to make mats. They use these mats to sit on and sleep on so they aren’t just lying on the bare floor. Levison has sent me an update today of two boys, very pleased with themselves, having finished their mat. They will make another one next time as one boy will take this one home.

Quite by coincidence, I noticed that one of these boys, Elias Sichoni, is a sponsored child. I looked back at photos of him when we first appealed for a sponsor just over a year ago. The change in Elias is amazing. I am so pleased to see these photos. Yes he is still thin but compared to how he looked previously it’s great to see his progress. Previously, he was in rags and his eyes were lifeless as he was so hungry and malnourished. This is exactly why we do what we do – working hard for these children to change their lives in an holistic way.

I wish everyone could see read my blog, look at these photos and understand that this means so much to see that we have made a difference to Elias. Elias has a chance now at a better life and I am just delighted to see how happy he is. Thanks to his sponsor, and all the other sponsors, we are able to support The Foundation to help these most vulnerable children. If you ever wondered if being a sponsor would make a real difference….just look at these photos. There are lots of other children needing sponsors and it’s only £25 per month to make a difference. Two friends can split the cost making it only £12.50 per month each. to change a life today. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

31 Days in May – Sarah’s Challenge – Day 13

Sarah’s blog 13/5/22

12.15pm Pot of soup made! 15km on exercise bike done! I’m doing ok but finding it quite hard to concentrate on other things apart from this challenge today. I’ve almost completed two weeks and I’m really pleased that I’ve had the willpower to do this challenge….I just need to keep going and need your help.

The thought that the hundreds of malnourished children supported by The Foundation don’t have the choices I have is keeping me going and focused on my challenge. They don’t have the luxury of choosing which vegetables they will be eating and how they will be cooking them. They might go a whole day without eating at all. Things are improving for them but there is still a long way to go.

Having a school in their village will make a huge difference. It will bring employment as well as education for all. It will mean that young people don’t need to board at school and can stay at home and help their families with chores. All children deserve an education. All children deserve enough to eat. All children deserve to have the opportunities to be the best they can be. Please support my challenge to build a school for them.

I thought I’d also show you a photo of some beautiful knitting for babies that we received recently. These little jackets will be so appreciated by new mothers for their babies. We are very grateful for all the donations and support we receive to help us continue Changing Lives Malawi. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

beautiful knitting for babies in Malawi that we received recently

two lots of tasty soup I made this week – glad of a different way to eat vegetables

15km done today

31 Days in May – Sarah’s Challenge – Day 11 and 12

Sarah’s blog 12/5/22

11.30am There wasn’t much to report yesterday. I did 10km on the exercise bike and ate rice and veg. I have been finding the last few days harder, I think because it’s a bit colder and I’m wanting something a bit different from salad and rice. Last night I did open a tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce and had half of that tin with rice which was a nice change. I am currently making some soup which I am looking forward to.

6pm My soup was delicious….even if I say so myself lol. Sweet potato, broccoli and stilton. I only used a little bit of stilton to give it some flavour…it’s been nice to have vegetables in a different form today! I’ve just cycled 15km so if you think I’m doing ok then please donate and share my posts. I’m almost two weeks into my challenge and have cycled further than I first thought so I’d love your help to build a school for the children so everyone can go to school. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Levison had a visitor


Everyone is always welcome at The Foundation. Levison receives visitors every single day….people in desperate need for a variety of reasons. They know The Foundation is doing it’s best to improve lives of the most vulnerable in that community. As help in that area is very limited, people are walking long distances as they are hungry and struggling. Food is getting more expensive and crops aren’t expected to do as well this year due to the very heavy rains and storms.

Usually, Levison is able to give people some clothes from the generous donations people have given us to send. Sometimes he can spare some maize to give them, but not always. They are able to take a shower if they want to. Yesterday a woman came asking for school fees for her daughter as she could no longer afford to pay. Unfortunately, Levison was unable to help….there are so many orphans more in need of a sponsor’s helping hand.

Levison doesn’t often receive visitors from other organisations, being so far north, so it was a lovely surprise for him to have a visit from Reverend Andrews Bipa who runs a much smaller organisation, The Trevor Foundation, which is near Mzuzu. Reverend Bipa had come to find out about The Foundation and the projects that are helping the community. Levison was happy to share information, answer questions and show Reverend Bipa around. They were able to share lunch together too. Networking and sharing knowledge is great for picking up ideas and encouraging each other to keep working hard to help those most in need. Thanks for reading, Sarah x

Levison and Rev Andrews Bipa in the library

Reverend Bipa was able to observe the nursery children enjoying their session

Reverend Bipa speaking about his visit to The Foundation

31 Days in May – Sarah’s Challenge – Day 10

Sarah’s blog 10/5/22

In some ways this challenge isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. However, there times that the challenge becomes more difficult when I least expect it.

I woke up at 4am needing the loo and I couldn’t get back to sleep. The reason? I was hungry. A gnawing hunger pain that just wouldn’t go away. I didn’t give into it….I just lay there trying to get back to sleep. And then it hit me…. this must be a daily feeling for the hundreds of orphans and other vulnerable children supported by The Foundation. How can they function day after long day when they are tired and hungry and malnourished?

So this has been a useful challenge. I’m only on day 10 but I am bored of eating just rice and vegetables. I am annoyed at seeing eggs and cheese and other nice things in the fridge knowing I can’t have them. I’d like to go out for lunch or a coffee at least…but I don’t want to be anywhere where there is lovely food and tempting smells. It is very, very restrictive. And very boring. And I’m hungry.

But, guess what? I have a choice. I have chosen to do this challenge to represent what the children eat at The Feeding Programme. I’m still lucky as I am able to eat every day….some of them won’t eat every day. I can choose which vegetables I want. They would love to be able to have choices like that. I know that on 1st June, my challenge will be over. However, for the children in Ibuluma, who live in dire poverty and who are all malnourished, every single day of their lives is a challenge.

I need your help. I need your support. Education is the way out of poverty. Children are desperate for an education. There are not enough secondary school places. We want education to be available for all and we want to build a school in the village so everyone can go to school. These children, like our children, deserve every chance to be the best they can be. They need someone to advocate for their needs. Please help me by raising funds to build a much needed school. Together we can make a difference. Together we can change lives.

Here is a video taken yesterday of some of the children having fun and forgetting their worries for a while. Hope it makes you smile seeing such enthusiasm. Oh, I’ve done 15km today on my exercise bike again! Thanks for reading, Sarah x

such great dance moves! wearing a Strathblane Primary School donated polo shirt

Music & Dancing


I think you’ll love these photos and videos from the music group that took place this afternoon. It’s great to see the children having fun with their friends and forgetting about their difficulties for a while. What is even more amazing is that a few children made the guitar by themselves! How clever is that? Enjoy and share with your friends. Thanks, Sarah x

playing homemade guitar

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